Part Time Employees Rising: The Role Of The Line Manager

career development d&i strategies managing working parents Apr 29, 2019

Employees who work part time hours are still facing many barriers to advance their career. Researchers demonstrate that a very low proportion of leadership roles are performed at less than 100%.

An organisation not only needs to look internally at its culture, processes and policies; it also needs to enable managers to become aware of their own biases and assumptions.

So, as a line manager, how can you support part time employees to rise within the business?


Institutionalised Norms

Institutionalised norms concerning working hours and ambition can make things very difficult for those on reduced hours, as it historically is considered to equal lower career ambition.

Ironically, part time work is a lever to support the successful integration of professional and personal life, thereby acting as an enabler for diversity and inclusion. The scary truth is that it sometimes has a negative impact on gender equality.

It is proven that for female part time workers in particular, it is more difficult for them to make their ambitions known because their managers unconsciously or consciously assume they are less ambitious than their full time colleagues. For this reason, they can feel compelled to express their ambitions either implicitly or not at all. At Thriving Talent, we refer to this as “invisible attrition”. This happens when employees consciously opt out of potential leadership roles - at a great cost to themselves and the business.


The Line Manager Perspective

We have previously written articles with advice about how to advance your career part time from an employee perspective (see How To Advance Your Career Whilst Working Part Time: Part One & Part Two).

Now we will focus on the employer perspective, taking a closer look at inclusion in action and the line manager’s responsibility to reverse the institutionalised norms and be an ally for diversity and gender equality.

So how can you enable employees working part time to advance in their career?

Let’s address the myths and discuss how you can overcome them:


Myth 1: “An employee on part-time hours is not as dedicated and committed to their career or our business goals as someone working full time”

This could not be further from the truth. Indeed, studies show that professionals working reduced hours typically are more engaged, loyal and committed to demonstrating value as they appreciate the ability to better balance all their responsibilities.

A desire to work flexibly and part time does not equate to a lack of commitment to the work. On the contrary, many of the professionals  we work with, who also have caring roles (be it for children, ageing parents, etc) are highly driven to succeed at work and advance their careers. They fervently believe and demonstrate that they can still deliver results, add value to the business and do so, working reduced hours.

One of the greatest fears we hear from women who are going on maternity leave is “how will I juggle both parenthood and my career when I return, when I know I have high standards for myself and ambitions for my career?”.

To their delight, what they discover when they return is that they are much more focused, able to better prioritise and find it easier to challenge low value work and work smartly. This ensures they achieve results without compromising their family values. Of course, this is easier to achieve when they work for a manager who empowers and trusts them.


Myth 2: “The work will be lower down the list of priorities for part time working parents in particular as they are putting their family first, so they may be resistant to change and new responsibilities”

You are more likely to find that working parents are more open to change and new challenges. They face these at home every day!

Having a growth mindset is an integral part of being a parent and the skills they are learning at home with their children will help them to become more innovative, collaborative, and enthusiastic about learning new things.

Yes, parents will most likely put family first. But why shouldn’t they?

In Europe, by 2023 one in three adults will also be caring for an ageing parent, so this is a wider caring issue that employers need to address.

This is about making it possible for employees to have a fulfilling private life and being able to maintain a healthy work/life balance - all of which makes for an engaged, motivated and happy employee.


Myth 3: “It is much more difficult to consider someone for a management role on reduced  hours because of the workload”

In most cases, management roles can realistically be managed on reduced hours. It’s about working smarter, not longer. When your senior leaders are succeeding in part-time roles, they become role models for their teams. Sometimes a management role does require someone to be present for full-time hours or even 7 days a week. In this case, job-sharing is a smart option or in workplaces where some tasks are interchangeable. Two two part-timers instead of one full-timer can prevent workflow interruption through easy handoffs, helping to ensure operational agility.

This year, at Thriving Talent, we are conducting a research project in partnership with AdvanceThe purpose of the interview is to collect data from flex-role models at leadership level to understand how they enable flexible and smart working in their teams (and for themselves). Our intention is that will have enough research to bust this particular myth by the end of 2019! If you want to see the final report please get in touch so we can add you to the mailing list.


Supporting Part Time Workers

There are a number of things you can actively do to support part time workers to advance their careers in your organisation…

Smart Working - expand your ability to offer employees to work more flexibly through embedding smart working into the culture of your organisation. There are best practices and guidance we can share to help you implement a range of part time and smart  working options such as job shares and compressed working weeks. This will give you the confidence to be experiment and be more inclined to adopt new ways of working.

Leadership Role Models  - recognise and champion managers who are reduced hours  and using flexible work options to successfully integrate their work-life balance. As a manager, be open about your personal commitments and if you are leaving early for a family engagement, say so. Show that it is acceptable and normal to have a life outside of work and still be just as committed to your management role.

Encourage & Empower your teams - many employees will fear asking for what they need, especially if others are not working reduced hours or if they have seen the negative impact it has had on others’ careers. As a manager, you can change this perception. Invite your team to reflect on their needs, to ask themselves, “what will make this easier, to thrive at work and at home?” You may not be empowered to say yes to everyone but as a team you can co-create solutions and be innovative.

Human Resources - make sure all managers are aware of the policies surrounding part time and flexible working options. This will enable them to support employees better and offer the best advice.

Manager Expectations - make it clear that managing part time and flexible working is expected as part of a line manager’s job role and key competencies. The ability to provide evidence of this should be a vital part of a manager’s role.  

Our May article will share best practice on "Embedding smart working into the organisation" so do look out for this, if enabling a more flexible work environment is part of your strategy this year.

If you would like to explore the ways in which you can promote and support diversity and inclusion for part time workers within your own place of work, please email us at Thriving Talent to start a conversation: [email protected]

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